Life's a Box of Chocolates

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My Grandma Betty loved chocolate. All her life, whenever I'd visit, I'd bring her some. Cheap chocolate when I was young, good chocolate as I got older. Grandma always opened the box and shared with me, and together we would giggle with our mouths full of luscious chocolate. Our special shared joke - me, Grandma and chocolate.

Years passed, and when Grandma Betty had grown very old, and was in a nursing home, my mom and I went to visit her one day. We brought along a box of chocolates. And boy, was Grandma happy to get them.

But the nurse wasn't as happy. "Now Betty can't eat those, you know better than that." And the nurse was right - at 92, Grandma Betty was on a restricted diet. Grandma sat silently in her wheelchair, and watched as the elegant box was snatched out of her reach and returned to me.

Grandma Betty died a month later.

At her funeral, her many children and grandchildren remembered her. But all I could think, sitting there, was how the plain pine casket reminded me of a box of chocolates.


It's the simple moments, the simple things we shared we remember about people we lose. With Grandma, I remembered sharing chocolate.

And, I was suddenly angry Grandma didn't get to enjoy that chocolate, or share it with me, one last time. At 92, Grandma should have scarfed the whole darn box if she felt like it.

And, I silently promised Grandma Betty, if I'm ever 92, I'm going to eat all the chocolate I want. They can pry the box from my cold, dead hands. The time comes for all of us, no matter how wholesome your diet, and all the organic kale in the world won't help.

Today, everyone is obsessed with healthy food. Nothing wrong with eating nutritiously. But my memories aren't sharing celery sticks, or salt-free egg substitutes with Grandma. I remember chocolate. Fat-filled, sugar-filled chocolate.

Life is short, and if you like chocolate, eat it when you have the chance. Enjoy it; it's later than you think. Grandma never intended a lesson about life with our shared chocolate binges, but, like chocolates, lessons sometimes come in surprising boxes. Grandma showed me life - and chocolate - is rich, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and sometimes unexpectedly nutty.

And, to this day, when I open a box of chocolates, I think of Grandma Betty. Grandma, I lift this lid to you.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow is a teacher for the San Francisco Unified School District.